William Langewiesche's life has been deeply intertwined with the idea and act of flying. Fifty years ago his father, a test pilot, wrote Stick and Rudder, a text still considered by many to be the bible of aerial navigation. Langewiesche himself learned to fly while still a child. Now he shares his pilot's-eye view of flight with those of us who take flight for granted--exploring the inner world of a sky that remains as exotic and revealing as the most foreign destination.
Langewiesche tells us how flight happens--what the pilot sees, thinks, and feels. His description is not merely about speed and conquest. It takes the form of a deliberate climb, leading at low altitude first over a new view of a home, and then higher, into the solitude of the cockpit, through violent storms and ocean nights, and on to unexpected places in the mind.
In Langewiesche's hands it becomes clear, at the close of this first century of flight, how profoundly our vision has been altered by our liberation from the ground. And we understand how, when we look around, we may find ourselves reflected in the grace and turbulence of a human sky.
A realist who says he rejects early flier-author Antoine de Saint-Exupery's dreamy romanticism, Langewiesche is informative on aspects of the current commercial aviation scene, and his pared-down style conveys a refreshing humility and respect for flying.
Unlike other authors who write about flight and flying, Langewiesche covers a wide range of topics. He details his interesting philosophy of flying as he talks about the view from above from the various aircraft both large and small that he has flown. He gives a readable physics lesson on how airplanes turn and portrays the political side of flying as he takes a pilot's look at the organizational friction between the FAA and the air traffic controllers. He saves his best writing for a chapter on "storm flying," where pilot and crew draw upon their piloting skills and reserve of calmness under pressure to fly a small aircraft above, below, or through storms safely. His love of flying comes through in this chapter.
Writing with poetic authority, he uses this "meditation" to unfold, partially, the mysteries of flight, and to recommend flight as a metaphor for understanding elements of the human condition. Occasionally, the metaphor seems only tangentially connected to the subject, though overall this is an enlightening, often riveting work....Part expose, part idyll, this is a meditation to savor.
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